Virus Proving Especially Deadly in LA County Nursing Homes

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles County hit another grim milestone Thursday with more than half of all Covid-19 deaths reported in the county occurring in communal settings like nursing homes.

From the 1,709 coronavirus deaths in LA County reported by public health officials so far, 865 of those deaths involved people who lived in institutional settings like nursing homes, jails and homeless shelters. Public health officials say most of the deaths involved nursing home residents.

Several nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the Southern California region have requested help from the California National Guard due to staffing shortages from the spread of the virus among staff and residents.

Medical members will be deployed at 10 facilities across LA County by Friday according to Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma.

The spread of the virus remains high in communal settings. But county officials touted stay-at-home orders for saving lives.

Prior to the county’s stay-at-home order in late March, one infected person could infect roughly three others. After the order was issued the rate of transmission dropped one, according to Health Services director Christina Ghaly.

But the health order also brought the LA County economy to a screeching halt, led to the closure of schools, businesses and ended social interactions between relatives who did not live in the same home.

“This virus has taken an incredible toll on our community and on ourselves, on one another, friends and neighbors,” said Ghaly, adding later: “Safer at home bought us more time.”

However, Ghaly noted what lies ahead is a new normal.

“We are not going to get back to the normal the way it was. But we can and will get to a place that will allow everyone to earn a living, take care of themselves and their family and find enjoyment in their lives and that allows us to be healthy at the same time,” said Ghaly.

Over 5,600 people who have tested positive for the virus have been hospitalized at some point — 16% of all those infected in the county.

Hospital admissions in LA County have remained relatively stable and medical facilities did not see a dramatic spike in the health care system like other cities did including New York, where hospitals were overwhelmed with sick patients.

Still, the number of deaths reported in LA County since March remains alarmingly high according to Public Health director Barbara Ferrer, particularly compared to deaths from the flu season.

“Last year 125 people died from influenza and the year before about 300 people died. On average we lose about 250 lives to influenza every year,” said Ferrer, who noted that while influenza-related deaths are often underreported there were 51 new deaths and 925 new Covid-19 infections in a 24-hour period.

Masks are now mandatory across the county when any adults venture outdoors with people they do not live with. LA County relaxed its health order this week to allow select retail businesses and manufacturing jobs to resume business, but in-store shopping remains prohibited.

Despite the high rate of infection, the LA County Superior Courts will resume in-person hearings starting June 22. Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile extended the court closure set to expire Friday through June. Brazile closed 400 out of 580 courtrooms at 38 courthouses on March 17.

Hand sanitizer and other infection control measures will be in place at the country’s largest trial court when its doors do inch open.

Virtual services for jury duty will also be rolled out when courts reopen. All visitors to the courts will be required to wear face masks and adhere to physical distancing. In-person reservations for seats will also be available.

About two weeks after thousands of anti-lockdown protesters took to the streets near Orange County beaches to protest California Governor Gavin Newsom’s health order, the county health department reported a jump in its daily infection rate.

Orange County reported 229 new infections Thursday, bringing the total infected to 3,968 according to the local health department. So far 80 residents have died.

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